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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Exodus 2

 

 

Verses 1-25

B.—The birth and miraculous preservation of Moses. his elevation and fidelity to the israelites. His typical act of deliverance and apparently final disappearance. God’s continued purpose to release Israel

Exodus 2:1-25

1And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a [the] daughter of Levi.[FN1] 2And the woman conceived and bare a son; and when she [and sheM] saw him, that he was a goodly child [was goodly, and] she hid him three months 3 And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime [bitumen] and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags [sedge] by the river’s brink 4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit [in order to learn] what would be done to him 5 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself [bathe] at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she [and she] saw the ark among the flags [sedge, and] she sent her maid to fetch it [maid, and she fetched it]. 6And when she had opened it she [And she opened it, and] saw the child, and behold, the babe [a boy] wept [weeping]. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children 7 Then said his sister [And his sister said] to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? 8And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child and nursed it 10 And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water 11 And it came to pass in those days when Moses was grown [that Moses grew up], that [and] he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens; and he spied [saw] an Egyptian smiting an [a] Hebrew, one of his brethren 12 And he looked [turned] this way and that way, and when he [and he] saw that there was no man , and] he slew the Egyptian and hid [buried] him in the sand 13 And when he [And he] went out the second day [day, and] behold, two men of the Hebrews [two Hebrew men] strove together [were quarreling]; and he said to him that did the wrong [to the guilty one], Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? 14And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And 15 Moses feared, and said, Surely this [the] thing is known. Now when [And] Pharaoh heard this thing, [thing, and] he sought to slay Moses. But [And] Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down16[dwelt[FN2]] by a [the] well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock 17 And the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock 18 And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are [Wherefore have ye] come so soon to-day? 19And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough[FN3] for [drew water for] us, and watered the flock 20 And he said unto his daughters, And where is Hebrews 4why is it that ye have [why then have ye] left the man? call him, that he may eat bread 21 And Moses was content [consented[FN5]] to dwell with the man; and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter 22 And she bare him a [bare a] sod, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, I have been a stranger [A sojourner have I been] in a strange land 23 And it came to pass in process of time [lit. in those many days], that the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage [service], and they cried; and their cry[FN6] came up to God by reason of the bondage [service]. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them [lit. knew them[FN7]].

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[ Exodus 2:1. אֶת, disregarded by the most of the commentators, is noticed by Glaire, who remarks that it “may imply that this daughter, named Jochebed ( Exodus 6:20) was the only one of the family of Levi still living, or the only one of that house who was then marriageable.” According to Exodus 6:20, and Numbers 26:59, Jochebed was Levi’s own daughter; she may have been an only daughter. Sill it is possible that אֵת, though almost always used only before a definite object, is here used as in Exodus 21:28. “If an ox gore a man (אֵת־אִישׁ) or woman (אֶת־אִשָׁה).” Comp. Ewald’s Kritische Grammatik, § 318, Note (9).—Tr.].

[ Exodus 2:15. Whether the second וָיֵּשֶׁב means “and ho sat down,” or “and he dwelt,” is not easily determined. It seems unnatural that the word should have two meanings in the two consecutive sentences, although undoubtedly it is elsewhere freely used in both senses. If, moreover, the writer meant to say that Moses, while dwelling in Midian, once happened to be sitting by the well, and so became acquainted with Reuel’s daughters, he would probably not have used the Future with the Vav consecutive, but rather the Perfect, or the Participle. Comp. Ewald, Autführt. Gr., § 341 a.—Tr.].

[ Exodus 2:19. וְגַס־דָּלֹה דָלָה. Lange translates: Auch hat er anhaltend geschöpft, “Also he kept drawing,” as if the Inf. Abs. followed, instead of preceding דָלָה. There is no reason for assigning to the Inf. Abs. here any other than its common use, viz., to emphasize the meaning of the finite verb. Nor does the rendering of the A.V, “drew water enough,” quite reproduce its force. The daughters of Reuel evidently thought it would have been a remarkable occurrence if Moses had only defended them from the shepherds. But more than this: “he even drew for us.”—Tr.].

[ Exodus 2:20. וְאַיּוֹ. Kalisch renders, “Where then is he?” Correctly enough, so far as the sense is concerned; but unnecessarily deviating from the more literal rendering in the A. V, which exactly expresses the force of the original.—Tr.].

[ Exodus 2:21. וַיּוֹאֵל. Glaire insists that in all the passages where יָאַל occurs, even where it has the meaning “to be foolish,” the radical meaning is “to venture.” Most lexicograhpers assume a separate root for the signification, which it has in Niph, “to be foolish.” Meier (Wurzelwörterbuch), however, reduces all the significations to that of “opening” or “being open,” from the root חָלַל = אוּל. But better, with Fürst, to assumo two roots, and make the radical signification of this one to be “to resolve, determine.” This covers all cases. e.g. Genesis 18:27, “I have resolved.” i.e., undertaken. Judges 1:27, “The Canaanites determined to dwell.” In cases like the one before us, and 2 Kings 5:23; Judges 19:6, the resolution, being the result of persuasion, is a consent.—Tr.].

[ Exodus 2:23. שַׁוְעָתָם. “cry for help”—a different root from that of the verb וַיִּזְעָקוּ.—Tr.].

[ Exodus 2:25. Lange translates: Und Gott sah an die Kinder Israels, und als der Gottheit war’s ihm bewusst (er durchschaute, sie und ihre Situation). “And God looked on the children of Israel, and it was known by Him as the Godhead (e saw through them and their situation).” This translation seems to be suggested by the emphatic repetition of אֱלֹהִים. But better to find the emphatic word in וַיֵדַע “God knew (them),” i.e., had a tender regard for them—a frequent use of יָדַע Comp. Psalm 144:3. Or, simply, “God knew,” leaving the object indefinite, as in the Hebrew.—Tr.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Exodus 2:1. And there went.—הָלָךְ, according to Keil, serves to give a pictorial description. Inasmuch as the woman had already borne Miriam and Aaron, it would mislead us to take the word in this sense. The expression properly means that he had gone; he had, in these dangerous times which, to be sure, at Aaron’s birth had not yet reached the climax (he was three years older than Moses) taken the step of entering the married state.—The descent of these parents from the tribe of Levi is remarked. Energetic boldness had distinguished it even in the ancestor ( Genesis 49:5; Exodus 32:26; Deuteronomy 33:8). Although originally not without fanaticism, this boldness yet indicated the qualities needed for the future priesthood.

Exodus 2:2. She recognized it as a good omen, that the child was so fair (טוֹבἀστεῖος LXX.; vid., Hebrews 11:23), Josephus traces this intuition of faith, which harmonized with the maternal feeling of complacency and desire to preserve his life, to a special revelation. But this was here not needed.

Exodus 2:3. The means of preservation chosen by the parents is especially attributed to the daughter of Levi. It is all the more daring, since in the use of it she had, or seemed to have, from the outset, the daughter of the child-murderer in mind. The phrase תֵּבָה designates the box as a miniature ark, a ship of deliverance. On the paper-reed, vid. Winer, Real-wörterbuch, II, p411. The box, cemented and made water-tight by means of asphalt and pitch, was made fast by the same reed out of which it had been constructed. This extraordinarily useful kind of reed seems by excessive use to have become extirpated.

Exodus 2:4. And his sister.—Miriam ( Exodus 15:20). The sagacious child, certainly older than Aaron, early showed that she was qualified to become a prophetess ( Exodus 15:20) of such distinction that she could afterwards be puffed up by it.

Exodus 2:5. “The daughter of Pharaoh is called Θέρμουθις (Josephus et al.) or Μέῤῥις.… The bathing of the king’s daughter in the open stream is contrary indeed to the custom of the modern Mohammedan Orient, where this is done only by women of low rank in retired places (Lane, Manners and Customs, p336, 5th ed.), but accords with the customs of ancient Egypt (comp. the copy of a bathing-scene of a noble Egyptian woman, with four female attendants, in Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, Vol. III, Plate417), and besides is perhaps connected with the notion held by the ancient Egyptians concerning the sacredness of the Nile, to which even divine honors were paid (vid. Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, p113), and with the fructifying, life-preserving power of its waters.” (Keil).

Exodus 2:6. The compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter towards the beautiful child led her to adopt him; and when she did Song of Solomon, making him, therefore, prospectively an Egyptian, she did not need, we may suppose, to educate him “behind the king’s back” [as Keil thinks.—Tr.]. We might rather assume that this event more or less neutralized the cruel edict of the king.

Exodus 2:9. Nor is it to be assumed that the daughter of Pharaoh had no suspicion of the Hebrew nationality of the mother. How often, in cases of such national hostilities, the feelings of individual women are those of general humanity in contradistinction to those of the great mass of fanatical women.

Exodus 2:10. She brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter.—The boy in the meantime had drunk in not only his mother’s milk, but also the Hebrew spirit, and had been intrusted with the secret of his descent and deliverance. Legally and formally he became her son, whilst he inwardly had become the son of another mother; and though she gave him the Egyptian name, “Mousheh,” i.e., saved from the water (Josephus II, 9, 6), yet it was at once changed in the mind of Divine Providence into the name “Mosheh;” the one taken out became the one taking out. (Kurtz). For other explanations of the name, vid. Gesenius, Knobel, Keil. Thus the Egyptian princess herself had to bring up the deliverer and avenger of Israel, and, by instructing him in all the wisdom of Egypt, prepare him both negatively and positively for his vocation.

Exodus 2:11. When Moses was grown.—Had become a man. According to Acts 7:23, and therefore according to Jewish tradition, he was then forty years old. He had remained true to his destination ( Hebrews 11:24), but had also learned, like William of Orange, the Silent, to restrain himself, until finally a special occasion caused the flame hidden in him to burst forth. An Egyptian smote one of his brethren.—This phrase suggests the ebullient emotion with which he now decided upon his future career.

Exodus 2:12. That Moses looked this way and that way before committing the deed, marks, on the one hand, the mature man who knew how to control his heated feeling, but, on the other hand, the man not yet mature in faith; since by this Acts, which was neither simple murder nor simple self-defence, and which was not sustained by a pure peace of conscience, he anticipated Divine Providence. It cannot be attributed to “a carnal thirst for achievement” [Kurtz]; but as little can it be called a pure act of faith; although the illegal deed, in which he was even strengthened by the consciousness of being an Egyptian prince (as David in his sin and fall might have been misled by feeling himself to be an oriental despot) was a display of his faith, in view of which Stephen ( Acts 7) could justly rebuke the unbelief of the Jews. Vid. more in Keil, p431.

Exodus 2:14. The Jew who thus spoke wag a representative of the unbelieving spirit of which Stephen speaks in Acts 7.

Exodus 2:15. The Midianites had made a settlement not only beyond the Elanitic Gulf near Moab, but also, a nomadic branch of them, on the peninsula of Sinai. These seem to have remained more faithful to Shemitic traditions than the trading Midianites on the other side, who joined in the voluptuous worship of Baal. “Reuel” means: Friend of God. He does not seem, by virtue of his priesthood, to have had princely authority.

Exodus 2:16. By the well.—A case similar to that in which Jacob helped Rachel at the well, Genesis 29.

Exodus 2:18. On the relation of the three names, Reuel, Jethro ( Exodus 3:1) and Hobab ( Numbers 10:29) vid. the commentaries and Winer. The assumption that חֹתֵן, used of Hobab, means brother-in-law, but used of Jethro (“preference,” like Reuel’s name of dignity “friend of God”) means father-in-law, seems to be the most plausible. Jethro in years and experience is above Moses; but Hobab becomes a guide of the Hebrew caravan through the wilderness, and his descendants remain among the Israelites. Vid. also Judges 4:11 and the commentary on it.

Exodus 2:22. Gershom.—Always a sojourner. So he lived at the court of Pharaoh, so with the priest in Midian. Zipporah hardly understood him (vid. iv24). As sojourner he passed through the wilderness, and stood almost among his own people. Yet the view of Canaan from Nebo became a pledge to him of entrance to a higher fatherland.

Exodus 2:23. Also the successor of the child-murdering king continued the oppression. But God heard the cry of the children of Israel. He remembered his covenant, and looked into it, and saw through the case as God.


Footnotes:

FN#1 - Exodus 2:1. אֶת, disregarded by the most of the commentators, is noticed by Glaire, who remarks that it “may imply that this daughter, named Jochebed ( Exodus 6:20) was the only one of the family of Levi still living, or the only one of that house who was then marriageable.” According to Exodus 6:20, and Numbers 26:59, Jochebed was Levi’s own daughter; she may have been an only daughter. Sill it is possible that אֵת, though almost always used only before a definite object, is here used as in Exodus 21:28. “If an ox gore a man (אֵת־אִישׁ) or woman (אֶת־אִשָׁה).” Comp. Ewald’s Kritische Grammatik, § 318, Note (9).—Tr.].

FN#2 - Exodus 2:15. Whether the second וָיֵּשֶׁב means “and ho sat down,” or “and he dwelt,” is not easily determined. It seems unnatural that the word should have two meanings in the two consecutive sentences, although undoubtedly it is elsewhere freely used in both senses. If, moreover, the writer meant to say that Moses, while dwelling in Midian, once happened to be sitting by the well, and so became acquainted with Reuel’s daughters, he would probably not have used the Future with the Vav consecutive, but rather the Perfect, or the Participle. Comp. Ewald, Autführt. Gr., § 341 a.—Tr.].

FN#3 - Exodus 2:19. וְגַס־דָּלֹה דָלָה. Lange translates: Auch hat er anhaltend geschöpft, “Also he kept drawing,” as if the Inf. Abs. followed, instead of preceding דָלָה. There is no reason for assigning to the Inf. Abs. here any other than its common use, viz., to emphasize the meaning of the finite verb. Nor does the rendering of the A.V, “drew water enough,” quite reproduce its force. The daughters of Reuel evidently thought it would have been a remarkable occurrence if Moses had only defended them from the shepherds. But more than this: “he even drew for us.”—Tr.].

FN#4 - Exodus 2:20. וְאַיּוֹ. Kalisch renders, “Where then is he?” Correctly enough, so far as the sense is concerned; but unnecessarily deviating from the more literal rendering in the A. V, which exactly expresses the force of the original.—Tr.].

FN#5 - Exodus 2:21. וַיּוֹאֵל. Glaire insists that in all the passages where יָאַל occurs, even where it has the meaning “to be foolish,” the radical meaning is “to venture.” Most lexicograhpers assume a separate root for the signification, which it has in Niph, “to be foolish.” Meier (Wurzelwörterbuch), however, reduces all the significations to that of “opening” or “being open,” from the root חָלַל = אוּל. But better, with Fürst, to assumo two roots, and make the radical signification of this one to be “to resolve, determine.” This covers all cases. e.g. Genesis 18:27, “I have resolved.” i.e., undertaken. Judges 1:27, “The Canaanites determined to dwell.” In cases like the one before us, and 2 Kings 5:23; Judges 19:6, the resolution, being the result of persuasion, is a consent.—Tr.].

FN#6 - Exodus 2:23. שַׁוְעָתָם. “cry for help”—a different root from that of the verb וַיִּזְעָקוּ.—Tr.].

FN#7 - Exodus 2:25. Lange translates: Und Gott sah an die Kinder Israels, und als der Gottheit war’s ihm bewusst (er durchschaute, sie und ihre Situation). “And God looked on the children of Israel, and it was known by Him as the Godhead (e saw through them and their situation).” This translation seems to be suggested by the emphatic repetition of אֱלֹהִים. But better to find the emphatic word in וַיֵדַע “God knew (them),” i.e., had a tender regard for them—a frequent use of יָדַע Comp. Psalm 144:3. Or, simply, “God knew,” leaving the object indefinite, as in the Hebrew.—Tr.].

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 2:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/exodus-2.html. 1857-84.

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Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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